How do you keep track of things?

post it notesI’m a bit of a scatterbrain at times, I’ll admit that. I generally need to write something down if I want to have any hope of remembering it later. If an event is not in my calendar, I’ll almost certainly miss it. I also find that I’m terrible at keeping track of paper, so I try to avoid post-it notes whenever possible. Here are some of the tools I currently use to help me keep track of things (tasks, ideas, events, etc):

As you can see, it’s not a small list. You might think that there’d be quite a bit of overlap between these, but there isn’t really. For instance, I use RTM for tasks, things I actually need to do something about. In contrast, I mainly use OneNote for brainstorming.

For the most part, this toolset helps me keep track of things. It’s not the most efficient system in the world though, and I wonder if there’s something better? For a creative person such as myself, who loves to read and has a million thoughts and ideas a day, what tools exist to help keep track of it all? It’s like I need something to help annotate my life.

Maybe a new tool isn’t the solution. I don’t regularly review the items in each of the tools above, which might be something I should start doing.

Remember The Milk

rtmIt seems that no matter how hard I try, I am never as organized as I want to be. There’s always something I didn’t get around to doing, or something new inevitably comes up. I am getting better though, and there’s a few tools I use to make it easier. I use Outlook 2007 every day for my email and calendar, but I’ve never been a big fan of the tasks functionality in Outlook. For that, I’m an extremely happy user of Remember The Milk.

Remember The Milk (RTM) is a web-based task management application. Here’s what they say on their about page:

We created Remember The Milk so that you no longer have to write your to-do lists on sticky notes, whiteboards, random scraps of paper, or the back of your hand. Remember The Milk makes managing tasks an enjoyable experience.

You’ve really got to try RTM to understand why it’s so awesome, but here are three of my favorite features:

  1. Keyboard Shortcuts
    That’s right, this web application supports keyboard shortcuts! It takes some getting used to, I suppose, but once you know the shortcuts you’re set. Pressing “t” will open a text box to allow you to type a new task. Pressing “n” deselects all the tasks in the current view, etc. Very handy.
  2. Smart Due Dates
    In most applications, selecting a due date is a pain in the ass. You’ve got to open a little calendar control, navigate to the month you want, and then click on the day. With RTM, you get a text box that you can type virtually anything into. Seriously. Want to make the task due tomorrow? Simply type “tomorrow” or even “tmr”. How about next Friday? Simply type “next friday”. Once you’ve used this, you’ll wonder how calendar apps could ever have worked any differently.
  3. Twitter Support
    As a self-described Twitter addict, I was incredibly happy to see RTM add Twitter support recently. Now I don’t even have to be near a computing device to use RTM! Instead, I can simply send a text message via Twitter to add new tasks, find out what’s due today, and more. Twitter’s direct message feature is what allows this magic to happen. Once you have RTM configured and added as a friend on Twitter, you can simply send “d rtm pick up milk” to add new tasks. Makes task management on the go a cinch.

You can learn more about RTM here. RTM supports multiple languages, task list sharing, offline access, and tons of other cool stuff. Did I mention that RTM is free? Quite amazing really, though they did recently launch a “Pro” account that costs $25 per year. With the Pro account you get priority support, new features (none as of yet), and “a warm fuzzy feeling for supporting RTM”. Heh.

If you’re looking for a good task management application, I definitely recommend Remember The Milk.

Read: RTM

How To Deal With Change

Post ImageSpeaking of change, Keith over at the wonderful To-Done! blog had this to say today:

Even small changes, like a rip-roarin’ summer, can throw us out of balance. Sometimes it’s as simple as a routine, or good habit, being broken. If enough time has passed and enough disruption has occurred, it can be hard to get back on track. Part of a maintaining a good work/life balance is taking a break now and again. The problem lies in that sometimes, a break is such a disruption you can lose momentum in various aspects of your life.

In my experience the best way to get back to normal (or what feels like normal) is to take a holistic approach as opposed on taking on one aspect of your life at a time.

He then outlines the holistic approach to handling change. Of the nine points Keith outlines, I’m currently doing three and occasionally four (clean and order your living and work areas is starting to be regular, but not yet). Looks like I have a little work to do!

Read: To-Done!

Ta-da Lists

Post ImageGot lots of stuff to keep track of? Of course you do, you’re a busy person, just like the rest of us. How do you keep track of the things you need to get done? If you’re like me, you probably write stuff down then go and lose that piece of paper. Happens all the time. But not anymore!

Lately I’ve been using Ta-da Lists, mainly because we’ve been using it’s big brother Basecamp at Paramagnus and liking it. Here’s what you can do with Ta-da Lists:

  • Keep track of all the little things you need to get done
  • Make lists for other people (co-workers, friends, family)
  • Share lists with the world (“My favorite movies of 2004”)
  • Subscribe to your lists in RSS so you’re always on track

It’s a great application, and it’s free! You just can’t go wrong. I especially like that my lists are on the web, so I can get to them from any computer. And the interface is simple, fast, and effective. If you’re looking for a better way to keep yourself organized, definitely check out Ta-da Lists.

Read: Ta-da Lists